When Jim Riggleman was hired as the bench coach this past offseason, the running joke was the Mets hired their interim manager. With the Mets faltering, Mickey Callaway‘s seat grows hotter by the day, and it would appear this is less of a joke than it is becoming a reality. Or is it?
Not only is Rojas a rising star, baseball runs through his veins. From the moment he was born, baseball encapsulated his entire life. This is the way things are when you grow up in country like the Dominican Republic. It’s also that way when your father is famed player and manager Felipe Alou, and your brother is Moises Alou. Taking a look at the bloodlines, you could almost see being a Major League manager as Rojas’ destiny.
For his part, Rojas believed this upbringing has influenced not just his career choice but also his views. Rojas would tell Anthony Dicomo of MLB.com, “Growing up in that environment was very impactful, very influential in my baseball growth. Just being born in a baseball atmosphere, right away opening my eyes on baseball from the beginning of my understanding was just really helpful. Right away, I wanted to follow my brothers’ steps. I wanted to follow the family’s steps.”
Obviously, Rojas was never the baseball player he brother was. From 1999 – 2005, he was a part of the Orioles, Marlins, and eventually Expos farm systems. He’d play 37 games for the Expos Gulf Coast League affiliate in 2004 hitting .240/.315/.352. Two years later, Rojas would begin his managerial career for the Expos Dominican Summer League team.
After that one season, the Mets jumped on Rojas, and they made him their DSL Manager for one season. The team then brought him stateside to serve as a coach for two years in the Gulf Coast League. Finally, in 2011, at the age of 29, Rojas would be named the manager of that same affiliate. From that point until this year, Rojas has been a manager in the Mets farm system.
During his time as a manager in the Mets system, he has managed a number of Mets prospects including current Mets Pete Alonso, Tyler Bashlor, Michael Conforto, Jacob deGrom, Drew Gagnon, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, Steven Matz, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith, Amed Rosario, and Daniel Zamora. Put another way, Rojas has helped develop the current Mets core become not just Major League players, but in some instances, All-Star caliber players.
He’s certainly left an impression on each of these players. When hired, Alonso shared a story about Rojas’ enthusiasm for his players saying, “He was jumping up and down, arms waving in the air. I honestly think Luis was happier than [Nick Sergakis].”
But it’s more than enthusiasm and relationships, Rojas can coach. It’s one of the reasons why the Mets see him as a rising star and why they were so enthusiastic to name him the team’s first ever quality control coach. In addition to those duties, he is also the team’s outfield coach.
We are seeing his impact as an outfield coach right now. Entering this season, McNeil had played all of 26.1 innings in left field over a six year span. It was up to Rojas to get McNeil up to speed. As he explained, Rojas’ plan was to begin “with the basics: pre-pitch, stance, route, reads off the bat and we progress into other things that we are taking here into camp and then some of the drills that we bring in with some of the outfielders.” (NY Post).
With Rojas coaching McNeil, McNeil has quickly become good in the outfield with a 2 DRS, which is sixth best in the league. It’s also important to note when Conforto was drafted, the knock on him was his defense. He worked with Rojas on his defense, and he has been really good out there. Now that he’s reunited with Rojas, Conforto has a 3 DRS which is good for sixth best in the majors.Credit is due to the players, but they got to that point because they are working with an excellent coach.
Rojas is not just a coach who is able to connect with this players, he is also comfortable not just with analyzing advanced data, but also putting it in terms which are useful to the players. As noted by MMO‘s Michael Mayer, it is Rojas’ responsibility to streamline the data to the players.
While comparisons of this nature tend to be unfairly lofty, in some ways Rojas does remind you of Alex Cora. Rojas has shown the ability to understand not just the fundamental aspects of the game, but he is also well versed and comfortable handling analytical data. He is an excellent communicator and coach. He loves the game, and he loves his players.
Whenever the time comes, Rojas should prove to be a good manager for the Mets. He is everything an organization and its players want in a manager. Being the communicator he is, he should also be able to handle the press well. Hopefully, another team doesn’t realize what the Mets have in Rojas and grab him before the time the Mets have a chance to elevate him into the manager’s role he was destined to be seemingly since the day he was born.
In the offseason, the Mets traded over five prospects. Why? They were all-in.
The Mets opted to forego a year of control over Pete Alonso by having him start the year on the Opening Day roster. Why? The Mets we’re all-in.
The Mets opted to go with just four MLB caliber starting pitchers in their organization because that’s apparently being all-in as well.
On the bright side Flexen was throwing 96 MPH. On the downside was everything else.
Flexen got through the first unscathed, but the wheels would come off starting with a Wilson Ramos passed ball allowing Jose Martinez to score. During that at-bat, Miles Mikolas would deliver with a two RBI single giving the Cardinals a 3-0 lead.
That was it. Game over.
Mikolas was cruising, and one pitcher after another couldn’t get out of their own way. Here are their disappointing but not unexpected final lines:
- Chris Flexen 4.1 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 0 K
- Luis Avilan 1.1 IP, H, 2 R, 2 ER, BB, 2 K
- Jacob Rhame 1.1 IP, H, R, ER, 2 BB, 0 K
- Paul Sewald 1.0 IP, H, R, ER, 0 BB, 0 K
Against a team the Mets are likely going to fight for a Wild Card spot, the Mets threw Flexen, Avilan, Rhame, and Sewald. They did it because they came into the season with no depth, and by mid-April, it’s already become an issue.
We also the Mets play continued shoddy defense. We also saw their offense begin to regress to the mean meaning it wasn’t there this time to bail out the pitching or defense.
Other fun notes include the Mets opting not to have deGrom undergo an MRI despite him having an elbow injury significant enough to put him on the IL. Alonso was hit on the hand with x-rays fortunately being negative.
Mostly, the Mets have been outscored by 17 runs this year, and they’ve allowed over 10 runs five times. It’s still early, but we’re starting to see very real problems with this team, and the way Van Wagenen built it, you legitimately have to ask how fixable they are.
The Veteran’s Committee, which has been re-branded as the Today’s Game Era Committee, somehow elected former commissioner Bud Selig into the Baseball Hall of Fame. With that, Selig becomes one of the worst choices for the Hall of Fame in baseball history.
Sure, his proponents will point to his achievements. Under Selig, we got the Wild Card and Interleague play, which arguably helped baseball achieve higher ratings and revenues. Furthermore, Selig was in charge when MLB Advanced Media (MLB AM) was established. The establishment of the internet media company was visionary and has provided a huge boost to MLB. Under Selig’s stewardship, we have seen labor peace for the first time and incrementally improving steroid testing. These are all achievements to be sure, but they overshadow what has been a largely negative tenure in baseball for Selig.
Selig first became an owner in 1970 when he purchased the Seattle Pilots, and he moved them to Milwaukee after the Pilots inaugural season. Selig was then one of the owners who colluded in the 1980s to suppress players salary and movement between teams. At this time, future Hall of Famers like Carlton Fisk, Phil Niekro, and Andre Dawson were having a difficult time just getting a free agent offer. This was a pattern that continued throughout the decade, and eventually, it led to union filing grievances against the owners. Eventually, this led to owners having to agree to a $280 million settlement to the MLBPA.
It has been alleged Selig was one of the leaders of the owner’s collusion to improperly restrict player movement and to suppress player salaries. It just so happens that a small market team like the Brewers were beneficiaries of the policy with the team being able to hold onto future Hall of Famers Paul Molitor and Robin Yount for much longer than they probably would have had the system not been improperly rigged. This collusion set the stage for the disastrous 1994 player strike.
Ascension to Power
As Commissioner, Fay Vincent would make two “mistakes” that would lead to the end of his tenure. The first was he treated players like an equal part in the business of baseball. The second was he chastised the owners for collusion saying, “The single biggest reality you guys have to face up to is collusion. You stole $280 million from the players, and the players are unified to a man around that issue, because you got caught and many of you are still involved.” (metsmerizedonline.com).
This along with many other reasons designed to help his franchise, the Milwaukee Brewers, was a catalyst for Selig organizing the owners to remove Vincent from power. Ultimately, the owners made an 18-9 no confidence vote, and a humiliated Vincent would resign from his office. This led to Selig’s rise to power.
Cancellation of the 1994 World Series
One of the singular owners responsible for collusion and the deep distrust between the players and owners was now in charge of baseball. With his newfound power, he wanted to usher in a complete change in economics and relationship with the players. In effect, he wanted to normalize the collusion practices of the 1980s by trying to impose a hard cap on the players. He and the owners tried this despite having full knowledge this was a non-starter for a union the owners never broke in negotiations.
The method Selig sought to try to break the union was to wrongfully withhold a payment to the players’ pension and benefits plan. This singular action was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, and it all but forced the union to set a strike date. After the strike was in effect, and after mediation proved ineffective, Selig, as acting commissioner, set forth a deadline of September 9th. If there was no deal in place, the baseball season would be over.
On September 8th, the players set forth a deal with some concessions. However it should be noted those concessions fell far short of all the demands of the owners, including but not limited to a salary cap. The owners never presented a counter-offer. Rather, on September 14th, the World Series was officially cancelled despite there presumably being sufficient time left on the calendar to get a deal done and have a postseason.
Unfair Labor Practices
With the strike dragging on and there being no hopes of new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the owners, led by their acting commissioner, Selig, enacted the salary cap they wanted in the first place. Undaunted, the owners announced a plan to go forward with the 1995 season using replacement players if the major league players on strike could not capitulate to the new labor rules the owners were trying to force upon them. Like with owner’s collusion attempts, this would have near disastrous consequences.
First, the issue of the owners colluding once again went before an arbitrator. The arbitrator found in favor of the players to the tune of $10 million. Next, Congress nearly revoked baseball’s anti-trust exemption. Lastly, the owners were found to have committed unfair labor practices. As a result, future Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued an injunction against the owner’s improper salary cap, and ordered that the players could return to work under the guise of the recently expired collective bargaining agreement.
In effect, the owner’s action, under the guidance of Acting Commissioner Bud Selig, led to the loss of the World Series and $10 million dollars. Moreover, it led to fan anger, and it deeply hurt some franchises. For all of that, the owners accomplished nothing.
Death of Baseball in Montreal and Municipally Funded Ballparks
At the time of the strike, the Expos were the best team in baseball with a 74-40 record. It looked like the beginning of a promising run for the Expos because not only did they have the lowest payroll in the majors, they had some exciting young stars in Cliff Floyd, Moises Alou, Larry Walker, Pedro Martinez, and John Wetteland. For a Canadian franchise that just saw its fellow Canadian franchise, the Toronto Blue Jays, win back-to-back World Series, it appeared as if it was finally the Expos turn.
It would never happen.
After the costly strike, the Expos were forced to trade away almost all of its players. As the Expos owners at the time put it, they could not afford to keep the team together, especially without the revenues that could’ve been generated by a long postseason run. Between the anger with the strike and with the Expos getting rid of all their best players, there simply was no reason for fans to come to the ballpark anymore. Ultimately, the Expos attendance figures would continuously decline until they actually drew under one million people in 1998.
The declining attendance figures helped Selig come up with his next ploy that would not only help the Brewers, but would also anger fans in other cities – contraction. In the 2001 offseason, the owners voted to have the ability to contract as many as two major league franchises. The teams cited for contraction were the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Florida Marlins, Montreal Expos, and Minnesota Twins. Effectively, this created a game of musical chairs and the ability to help coerce cities to fund ballparks.
First, the Marlins owners were part of a group of owners that purchased the Boston Red Sox. With the Marlins needing ownership, the Jeffrey Loria, a man who had claimed almost full ownership of the Expos, was then approved as the purchaser of the Florida Marlins. With an ownership void, baseball took the unprecedented act of purchasing the Expos.
It should be noted smaller market clubs like the Pirates and the Brewers were not among those mentioned in contraction talks despite their claims of their operating in the red. The main reason is those cities had already agreed to build those teams a new ballpark. Eventually, the cities of Minneapolis and Miami would agree to financially support owners to build a new ballpark. With the hopes of building a new ballpark in Montreal dashed, baseball eventually moved the Expos to Washington, D.C. who had agreed to take on the funding of a new ballpark for the team.
Between the strike and contraction threats, Selig helped kill baseball in Montreal. He did it as part of his mission to get municipalities to fund and build ballparks for teams. Overall, he has been largely successful on that front, but there are still issues in Tampa (lease) and Oakland.
As an aside, it should be noted that the Expos were one of the few teams to lose a superstar during the collusion practices of the 1980s. Basically, the practices Selig either led or helped promote had an enduring effect of harming baseball in Montreal.
The Oakland Athletics Limbo
O.co Coliseum is largely seen as an antiquated ballpark. Moreover, it is widely assumed the Athletics need to build a new ballpark to help create new revenue streams in order to be able to compete financially. Many assume the Athletics need to move out of Oakland in order to get the type of ballpark and market needed to compete. On both fronts, the Athletics found a willing partner with the City of San Jose.
There is just on problem – the San Francisco Giants have the rights to that city. Under somewhat antiquated rules, the San Francisco Giants have the rights to San Jose meaning only the Giants have the right to move there. This decision was in place despite the cities of San Francisco and Oakland being part of the larger metropolitan area known as the Bay Area. Notably, San Jose is also part of that area.
To put things in perspective, the distance between the two ballparks is 15.3 miles. Citi Field and Yankee Stadium are similarly apart in that the two ballparks are 9.7 miles apart. Similar to Oakland and San Francisco, you need either use public transportation or cross a bridge to get to the other ballpark. Keeping those distances in mind, the Giants having control over San Jose would be like the Yankees having control over Northern New Jersey, thereby preventing the Mets from building a ballpark in the Meadowlands next to Metropolitan Stadium even though the team is moving within the same metropolitan area.
Note, this could never happen because the Mets and Yankees do not have separate territorial rights. Yet, somehow the Giants and Athletics do, and with baseball’s anti-trust exemption, the Athletics franchise has been in limbo.
Despite the limbo, the declining revenues, and attendance, Selig refused to help address the issue despite San Jose’s pleas. Selig had an opportunity to show leadership, and help all of the major league franchises. Instead, he demurred while bemoaning how the Athletics current situation is irreconcilable. With Selig’s retirement, he has left the mess for the new commissioner, Bob Manfred.
The Steroids Era
To say baseball didn’t benefit from the Steroids Era would be a lie. Back in 1998, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were chasing down Roger Maris‘ single season home run record, and fans angered at the strike were coming back to the game. At the time, Selig would say, “This is a renaissance.” (Howard Bryant, ESPN.com).
However, to hear Selig tell it now, he tried to get to the bottom of what was happening. As he recently told Jayson Stark of ESPN.com, “They gave me a whole bunch of reasons. And I kept asking about steroids.” Selig would go on to say in the interview, “You know, I’ve thought about it a hundred times, because I’m pretty tough on myself. And I honestly don’t know what else I could have done. That’s my answer.”
Now, to be fair to Selig, as the commissioner, he could not unilaterally impose sanctions on players who used steroids. Additionally, he could not impose testing. It should also be noted Selig did have broad discretion to do this with the minor leagues, and he did in fact do it. To that end, he does deserve some credit.
With that said, it is noticeable Selig did not use his pulpit as commissioner to try to impose steroids testing or suspensions. As seen above, when it came to the financial aspect of baseball, Selig tried to obtain unprecedented power. In the wake of the costly collusion lawsuit, he helped oust a sitting commissioner to become an acting commissioner. During the 1994 strike, he led the owners in the implementation of a salary cap. When it came to helping owners and getting new ballparks, he got the approval from the owners to contract two major league franchises. However, suddenly, with steroids, Selig was not only silent, he has also acted as someone who had little power to address the issue.
Fact is Selig didn’t address the issue because there were growing attendance and revenues stemming from the Steroids Era. It helped heal some of the wounds of the strike, and it led to larger and larger television contracts. At best, Selig turned a blind eye to steroids use because it was helping the game. At worst, he was a willing participant who cared not for the sanctity of baseball’s sacred records.
Whatever you believe, the Steroids Era is an indelible part of his history. And yet, with his induction into the Hall of Fame, he now appears to be the only person untainted by the era.
Yes, it is a different panel of voters that voted for Selig than had the opportunity to vote for players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. However, it should be noted that this same panel had the opportunity to elect McGwire into the Hall of Fame as the same time as Selig, and yet, McGwire fell far short of the votes needed for induction to the Hall of Fame. This seems odd, especially when you consider the Mitchell Report, which was commissioned by Selig, found Selig partially culpable for the Steroids Era:
Everyone involved in baseball over the past two decades – Commissioners, club officials, the Players
Association, and players – shares to some extent in the responsibility for the steroids era. There
was a collective failure to recognize the problem as it emerged and to deal with it early on. As a
result, an environment developed in which illegal use became widespread.
Mitchell Report, p. SR-36.
Despite the Mitchell Report, the Hall of Fame has decided to take two very separate and distinct stances on McGwire. With respect to the steroids usage, the Hall of Fame is now asserting that any player who benefited from the use of steroids should be barred from the Hall of Fame. However, any executive or owner who not only shared the benefits of McGwire’s steroids use, but also helped promote a culture of steroids use across baseball could reap the benefits thereof. Overall, the Hall of Fame has decided that Selig can benefit from the wrong actions of players he did little to nothing to stop. It is really difficult to make sense of two very different positions.
No matter how you look at it, Selig’s enduring legacy is going to be: (1) he was the commissioner who cancelled a World Series; (2) he was the commissioner that presided over the Steroids Era; and (3) he is the commissioner that introduce Interleague Play and the Wild Card.
As seen above, Selig’s is a complicated legacy, and that is before you get into relatively minor decisions like not letting the New York Mets wear the first responder’s caps on 9/11 to honor those people who died during the most devastating terror attack on U.S. soil, forcing the McCourts to sell the Los Angeles Dodgers, or his empowering the Wilpons to continue ownership of the Mets despite their financial difficulties resulting from the Madoff Scandal.
Maybe it is too soon to judge Selig’s overall legacy. On the positive, he has grown the sport financially, and he has introduced some aspects to the game that are currently seen as positives. No one should overlook those accomplishments.
However, Selig was an owner who helped build distrust between the owners and players than helped create the 1994 strike and the cancellation of the World Series. His actions and inactions as commissioner caused him to be called before a Congress who continuously threatened to revoke baseball’s antitrust exemption. Selig presided over the end of baseball in Montreal, and he also has helped put the Athletics in limbo. He has twice been a part of the sport being embarrassed with the owners twice being found to have committed unfair labor practices. The actions cost the owners nearly $300 million not including whatever revenues were lost during the 1994 season.
Overall, it is fair to say Selig’s has damaged baseball as both an owner and a commissioner. At a minimum, his negatives should have called for more time to judge his legacy. Instead, we now have someone in the Hall of Fame who:
- Helped collude to restrict player movement and salaries;
- Helped facilitate the 1994 strike;
- Cancelled the World Series;
- Was part of a collection of owners twice found to have committed unfair labor practices;
- Oversaw the end of baseball in Montreal; and
- Was partially culpable for the Steroids Era.
It is hard to find a person in baseball who has had as negative an effect upon the game of baseball. However, all of this was overlooked, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame presumably because he made a lot of decision makers a lot of money.
When your team is not in the World Series, the one thing you really want is a memorable World Series. Even if a team you hates wins the World Series, you want to be rewarded for the time you invest watching the World Series. In my lifetime, here are some of the World Series I found to be absolutely riveting:
1991 World Series
As for as World Series go, this one could very well be the gold standard. Five of the seven games were decided by one run. Three of the games went into extra innings including Games 6 and 7. With Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Steve Avery, Kevin Tapani, and of course Jack Morris, there was great pitching that led to tense innings and rallies. In six of the seven games, both teams scored five runs or less. However, what truly made this series great was two all time games to close out the series.
In Game 6, Kirby Puckett put the Twins on his back. He made that leaping catch snatching Ron Gant‘s home run from clearing that plexiglass, and then he hit a walk-off home run in the 11th inning that included a classic call:
Then in Game 7, Morris went the distance in a 1-0 10 inning game that featured rookie Chuck Knoblauch deking 13 year veteran Lonnie Smith from scoring the go-ahead run in the eighth inning that probably would have been the game winner. Then in the 10th inning Gene Larkin became the unlikeliest of heroes by getting the World Series walk-off single.
1993 World Series
Generally speaking, this would have been an average World Series as most six game World Series are. However, there was a lot in this World Series.
Lenny Dykstra turned into Babe Ruth during the series. Roberto Alomar hit .480 in the series, and he wasn’t even the best hitter. That honor goes to Paul Molitor who hit .500 in the series. Game 4 saw the Blue Jays mount a frantic eighth inning come from behind rally to win by a score of 15-14. And as if this wasn’t enough, in Game 6 Joe Carter did something only Bill Mazeroski had done:
1997 World Series
This series wasn’t particularly memorable despite a couple of slugfests in Games 3 and 5. No, what made this series was an epic Game 7. The Indians were seeking to win their first World Series since 1948. They had their closer Jose Mesa on the mound and a 2-1 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth.
The Marlins first scratched in a run in the bottom of the ninth with a Craig Counsell sacrifice fly scoring Moises Alou. The Marlins started the game winning rally in the bottom of the 11th with a Bobby Bonillia single off Charles Nagy. Eventually, the Marlins loaded the bases with one out. Devon White, who won the World Series with the aforementioned Blue Jays, grounded into a force play with Tony Fernandez nailing Bonilla at the plate. Then with two outs, rookie Edgar Renteria singled home Counsell to win the World Series.
Note, this would’ve been rated much higher if not for the MVP mysteriously being given to Livan Hernandez (5.27 ERA) over Alou, and for Bonilla having such a huge Game 7.
2001 World Series
This World Series had it all. Curt Schilling did the old fashioned 1-4-7 you want your ace to do in the biggest series of the year. Randy Johnson was better than that shutting out the Yankees in Game 2, shutting them down in Game 6, and pitching on no days rest to keep the Yankees at bay in Game 7.
Game 7 was an epic back-and-forth matchup. Alfonso Soriano broke a 1-1 tie in the top of the eighth to set the stage for the great Mariano Rivera who is the greatest postseaon closer, if not pitcher, of all time. This would be the one World Series blown save in his career. He was uncharacteristically frazzled making an error on a sacrifice bunt attempt. Still, he recovered, and the Yankees got the forceout at third on the next bunt attempt. Tony Womack would then shock everyone by hitting a game tying double. After Counsell (him again) was hit by a pitch, Luis Gonzalez would bloop a walk-off World Series winning single over the head of Derek Jeter.
However, that World Series was not memorable for Game 7. It was memorable because those games were played post-9/11, and they were memorable due to what happened at Yankee Stadium. Before Game 3, President Bush threw a curveball for a strike off the mound before a hard fought Yankees win. In Game 4, the Yankees were on the verge of falling behind 3-1 in the series before Tino Martinez hit an improbably two out home run off Byung-hyun Kim to tie the game, and Jeter hit a walk-off home run in the 10th to become “Mr. November.” In Game 5, the Yankees were again down two runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. This time it was Scott Brosius who did the impossible hitting a game tying two run home run to send the game into extras with Soriano getting the walk-off hit in the 12th.
Overall, baseball does not get better than that three game set in the Bronx, especially in the backdrop those games were played.
2002 World Series
That Rally Monkey was all the more prevalent in Game 6. In that game, Baker made the fateful decision to lift Russ Ortiz with a 5-0 lead, two on, and one out in the seventh inning. Scott Spiezio greeted Felix Rodriguez with a three run homer. Darin Erstad then led off the seventh inning with a solo shot off Todd Worrell. Worrell made matters worse by allowing back-to-back singles thereby putting closer Robb Nen in a precarious situation. Nen would allow a go-ahead two run double to World Series MVP Troy Glaus giving the Angels a 6-5 win. In Game 7, rookie John Lackey took care of business and shut down a Giants team that should have won the World Series in Game 6.
2011 World Series
For the most part, this was a well played if not memorable World Series through the first five games. In the seventh inning, Adrian Beltre broke a 4-4 tie that sparked a three run inning that seemingly was going to deliver the first ever World Series title to the Rangers franchise. The World Series title was going to be even sweeter for a Rangers team that had their doors blown off in the 2010 World Series.
In the eighth, Allen Craig hit a solo shot to draw the Cardinals within two. There was still a large enough lead for the excellent Rangers closer, Neftali Feliz to put the game to rest. The game was there to win even after a Albert Pujols double and a Lance Berkman walk. Then with two outs, David Freese unleashed a two RBI game tying double to keep the World Series alive. If that wasn’t painful enough, the Rangers were in for more pain.
Josh Hamilton would hit a two run homer in the top of the 10th to give the Rangers the lead. At this point, victory was almost assured. The Cardinals were undeterred putting the first two on against Darren Oliver. After a sacrifice bunt, Ryan Theriot plated a run with an RBI groundout, and Berkman brought home the tying run with an RBI single.
The Rangers would have no response in either Game 6 or Game 7. In the bottom of the 11th, Freese, the World Series MVP, would hit a walk-off home run that not only sealed Game 6, but also demoralized a Rangers team heading into Game 7.
2014 World Series
Of note, five of the first six games were terrible. Absolutely terrible. Through the first six games, the average margin of victory was six runs per game, and that includes a one run game in Game 3. Taking aside Game 3, the average margin of victory was seven runs per game. This is really the type of series you expect with some truly terrible starting pitching on both sides. In fact, the only starter who was actually good was Madison Bumgarner.
That’s an understatement. Bumgarner made Morris look like a Little Leaguer with his World Series performance. In his World Series MVP performance, he appeared in three games going 2-0 with one save, a 0.43 ERA and a 0.476 WHIP. He came out of the bullpen in the fifth inning in Game 7 with the Giants having a 3-2 lead. Watching him pitch on two days rest, you kept waiting for him to falter, and then this happened:
Alex Gordon‘s two out single almost became a Little League home run with Gregor Blanco letting the ball bounce past him and Juan Perez nearly booting the ball away. The debate would rage for days as to whether he should have gone home (he shouldn’t have) with Bumgarner being Bumgarner. Those that believed he should have gone only intensified their arguments when Salvador Perez fouled out to Pablo Sandoval to end the World Series.
2017 World Series
There is enough here for a classic World Series with two great teams, and two great storylines. Honestly, the Indians fans deserve this more as they are far more tortured than the Cubs fan. Ideally, this series goes seven with the Indians pulling it out in classic fashion. Hopefully, a majority of the games are close. No matter what happens, all we need is one or two games or moments to make this a series for the ages. That’s all we can realistically hope to get.
Things are already off to a good start with Dexter Fowler being the first ever black man to play for the Chicago Cubs in a World Series game.
Time and again, we have heard about the Billy Goat curse and the Chicago Cubs not having won a World Series since 1908. As a result, many are supposed to empathize with them for their time falling short time and again. Moreover, many sympathize with a fan base that has never seen their team win a World Series in their lifetime. While all of this is true, it is not appreciably different than being a Cleveland Indians fan.
The Indians last won the World Series in 1948 against the Boston Braves. Yes, the Boston, not Atlanta Braves. That’s how long ago the Indians last World Series title was. If you are to assume that a 10 year old had the full capacity to appreciate the World Series victory and remember the run to the World Series, that means Indians fans who could relish those Lou Boudreau teams were born in 1938. That would make those fans 78 years old today. Rounding up just a tad, unless you are an octogenarian, Indians fans have never seen their team win a World Series. What they have seen is some excruciating losses.
Back in 1995, the Indians sent out what could be considered the greatest offensive team ever assembled. That Indians team was shut down by Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Steve Avery over the six game set. A team that had scored 840 runs in 144 games (strike shortened season), an average of 5.8 runs per game, could only muster 19 runs (3.2 runs per game) in the series. A team that was shutout just three times in the regular season would be shut out in Game Six of the World Series in an excruciating 1-0 loss.
The 1997 Indians weren’t the favorites to win the World Series. Instead, they had to fight and claw their way back to the World Series. They needed the rookie Jaret Wright to become a Yankee killer and Sandy Alomar, Jr.Moi to hit a pivotal home run in what was going to be the Game 4 clincher of the ALDS for the defending champion Yankees. Instead, the Indians persevered and would win their second pennant in three years after beating the Orioles in six in the ALCS. It should be noted Armando Benitez took the loss in that game being a harbinger of things to come for Mets fans.
That 1997 World Series was thrilling with the Marlins and Indians alternating wins setting the stage for an epic Game 7. The Indians had to like their chances with their newfound postseason hero Wright going up against Al Leiter. The Indians had tattooed Leiter for seven runs in 4.2 innings in Game 4. Leiter would never win a postseason start in his career. While it was more of a challenge than the Indians expected, they hand their closer, Jose Mesa, on the mound with a 2-1 lead in the ninth inning. Mesa would blow the game allowing Craig Counsell to hit a sacrifice fly to score Moises Alou (again how was he not the MVP of that series) to tie the game. The Indians couldn’t touch the Marlins bullpen in extra innings. Finally, in the 11th, Charles Nagy gave up the game winning hit to Edgar Renteria scoring Counsell of all people as the winning run. That is as excruciating a loss as it gets for a fan.
There have been other tales of recent woe for this Indians fan base. In 1998, the Yankees exacted revenge against Wright and the Indians by scoring five runs in the first inning off Wright en route to a Yankees 4-2 ALCS series win. In 1999, the Indians blew a 2-0 series lead and a 5-2 lead in Game 5 to lose the ALDS to the Red Sox. That game was memorable for Pedro Martinez‘s epic performance out of the bullpen. The lean years were not too far away from here.
Then there was an Indians resurgence. In 2007, the Indians had a 3-1 game lead over the Red Sox in the ALCS with Game 5 at home. CC Sabathia just couldn’t close the deal, and the Indians bullpen would implode leading the Red Sox to their comeback. Like the rest of baseball, the Indians would watch helplessly as the Red Sox would win their second World Series in four years. To make matters worse, the small market Indians would have to break up the team. Two years later, Indians fans would watch as Sabathia took the hill for the Yankees in Game One of the World Series against Cliff Lee and the Philadelphia Phillies.
In response, many Cubs fans will scream the Bartman Game! One of their own prevented them from winning the pennant and going to the World Series back in 2003. Of course, that narrative is a bit nonsense because there is a real debate as to whether or not Alou could catch that ball. Furthermore, that didn’t cause Dusty Baker to leave Mark Prior out there too long. It didn’t cause Alex Gonzalez to allow a double play ball to go through his legs. It didn’t cause the Cubs to blow a 3-0 lead. It certainly didn’t cause the Cubs and Kerry Wood to blow a 5-3 lead in Game 7. Furthermore, it did not cause Cubs fans to try to ruin Bartman’s life.
Absolutely, blowing a 3-1 series lead when your team hasn’t won a World Series in nearly a century is devastating. It was no more devastating than the Indians blowing the 2007 ALCS. It is definitively not more devastating than the 1997 World Series.
Sure, it hurts to lose and not be competitive. However, as a Mets fan I know the 2015 World Series loss was infinitely more hurtful than anything I saw from 1991 – 1996 or 2001 – 2004 or even 2009 – 2014. No, it is hte misses that stick with you the longest. Personally, I’m more haunted by Ron Darling pitching the worst game of his life against an unbeatable Orel Hershiser, Kenny Rogers walking Andruw Jones, Luis Sojo‘s two RBI single off Leiter, Carlos Beltran looking at an Adam Wainwright curveball, Eric Hosmer‘s mad dash to home plate, and any of the other events that led to those deciding plays which ended the Mets postseasons.
The Cubs may not have won since 1908, but the Indians fan base is the more tortured fan base. They deserve this World Series title more than anyone.
Growing up, my family did not always go to Opening Day. It was sometimes difficult for my Dad to get off of work, and even if he could, we had my mother insisting that my brother and I could not miss a day of school just to go to a Mets game. What eventually happened is that my father, brother, and I usually found ourselves going to the last game of the season, which usually falls on a Sunday.
When you go to Opening Day, there is always hope. Even when your team stinks, you can find some reason for hope. I remember thinking back in 1993 that the 1992 Mets season was just a fluke. Bobby Bonilla was certainly going to be better. Howard Johnson was back in the infield where he belonged. This could be the year Todd Hundley and Jeff Kent break out. The team still had Dwight Gooden, Sid Fernandez, and Bret Saberhagen with John Franco in the bullpen. It turns out the 1993 team was even worse than the 1992 team.
The last game of the season always has an interesting feel to it. When we went to the final game of the season, it was more of a farewell to an awful season. Being ever the optimist, we still had hope for a bright future with Pete Schourek throwing eight brillant innings to cap off a Mets six game winning streak. It seemed like 1994 was going to be a big year in baseball. It was, but that’s a whole other story.
There was the devastating 2007 finale. Heading into that game, most Mets fans believed that despite the epic collapse, the Mets were going to take care of the Marlins. They just snapped a five game losing streak behind a brilliant John Maine performance and the offense coming alive to score 13 runs. Even better, the Phillies seemed to be feeling the pressure a bit with them getting shut down by Matt Chico and a terrible Marlins team. The sense was if the Mets won this game, the Phillies would feel the pressure and lose their game. Even if the Phillies won their game, the Mets would beat the Phillies and return to the postseason like everyone expected.
After Tom Glavine laid an egg, which included out and out throwing a ball into left field trying to get Cody Ross, who was going to third on the original throw to home. At 5-0, the Mets were still in the game. David Wright was having a torrid September. Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran were big game players. I don’t think Moises Alou made an out that entire month. With that in mind, I turned to my father, and I said to him, “If the Mets allow one more run, the game is over . . . .” As the words left my mouth, Jorge Soler allowed a two run double to Dan Uggla. Sure, they would play eight and a half more innings, but the collapse was over right then and there.
That 2007 finale hung over the 2008 finale. Mets fans were probably a bit more optimistic than they had a right to be. The day before Johan Santana took the ball with three days rest, and he pitched a complete game three hitter. The Mets had Oliver Perez going in the finale. Back then, this was considered a good thing. The offense was clicking again. However, that bullpen was just so awful. The Mets were relying on Luis Ayala to close out games, and believe it or not, his 5.05 ERA and 1.389 WHIP was considered a steadying presence to an injury ravaged bullpen. Beltran would hit a huge home run to tie the game, but the joy wouldn’t last. Jerry Manuel, just an awful manager, turned to Scott Schoeneweis to gave up the winning home run to Wes Helms (Mets killer no matter what uniform he wore), and then aforementioned Ayala gave up another one that inning to Uggla to seal the deal at 4-2.
Fittingly, the last out was made by Ryan Church. He was the same Mets player the Mets flew back and forth to the West Coast despite him having a concussion. Remember the days when the Mets didn’t handle injuries well? Nevermind. In any event, I was one of the few that stayed to watch Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza close out Shea Stadium. Many disagree, but I thought it helped.
Last year, was just a celebration. The Mets had already clinched the NL East, and they were off to their first postseason since 2006. The only thing left was the Mets winning one more game to get to 90 wins. The 90 wins was window dressing, but the shift from 89 to 90 is just so satisfying. It means more than 86 to 87 wins or 88 to 89 wins. That 90 win mark is an important threshold for the psyche of teams and fans.
This year was something different altogether. In terms of pure baseball, the Mets entered the day tied with the Giants for the first Wild Card with the Cardinals just a half a game behind (tied in the loss column). The night before the Mets had seen Sean Gilmartin and Rafael Montero combine to put the team in a 10-0 hole that the Las Vegas 51s just couldn’t quite pull them out from under. Still, that rally had created some buzz as did Robert Gsellman starting the game. However, there was the shock of the Jose Fernandez news that muted some of the pregame buzz.
After the moment of silence, there was a game to be played, and it was just pure Mets dominance.
Gsellman would pitch seven shutout innings allowing just three hits and two walks with eight strikeouts. More amazing than that was the fact that he actually got a bunt single. For a player that can only bunt due to an injury to his non-pitching shoulder, the Phillies sure acted surprised by the play. Overall, it was a great day by Gsellman who was helped out by the Mets offense and a little defense along the way:
It was that type of day for the Mets. After Saturday’s pinch hit home run there was a Jay Bruce sighting again on Sunday. On the day, he was 2-4 with two runs and a double. It was easily the best game he had as a Met. His second inning double would start the rally that ended with James Loney hitting an RBI groundout. Then, as Cousin Brucey would say, “the hits just keep on comin’!” No, that was not just an allusion to the Phillies pitchers who hit three batters in the game. It refers to the Mets offense.
Curtis Granderson hit a fourth inning solo shot to make it 2-0. It was his 30th of the year making it the first time the Mets have had a pair of 30 home run outfielders since, really who even knows? In the fifth, T.J. Rivera plated a run with an RBI single. Later in the fifth, Jose Reyes would the first of his two RBI bases loaded walks. Overall, the big blow would come in the seventh off the bat of Asdrubal Cabrera:
— New York Mets (@Mets) September 26, 2016
The grand slam put the capper on not just the game, but a pretty remarkable season at home where the Mets were 44-37 on the season. The Mets also hit 193 homers at home, which was the most ever hit at Citi Field, and more than any the Mets ever hit at Shea Stadium in any one season:
The final home game of the season is over, here are the all 193 home runs hit in Citi Field this season. pic.twitter.com/KHfkv3lXFP
— CitiFieldHR (@CitiFieldHR) September 25, 2016
In the eighth, the Mets just poured it on with some of the 51s getting into the game. Gavin Cecchini was hit by a pitch, Brandon Nimmo and Ty Kelly walked, and Eric Campbell got another RBI pinch hit. Throw in a Michael Conforto two RBI double, and the Mets would win 17-0. Exiting Citi Field, you got the sense this was not the last time you would see this team at home. As it stands now, the Mets back to being a game up on the Giants, and the Cardinals fell to 1.5 games back.
There haven’t been many final games to the season like this one, and I’m not sure there ever will be. Overall, it was a great way to close out the regular season at Citi Field. However, for right now, it is not good-bye like it was in 1993, and it certainly isn’t good riddance like it was in 2007. Rather, this game had more of a feeling of, “See you again soon.”
Votto did come across as a bit of a jerk with the disgust he showed. But, he has a point. The guy was a Reds fan. He was the same guy that would have groaned or booed if the ball was a foot in the other direction, and Votto failed to make the play.
Most of the time when fans are that close, they lose sight of who they are rooting for, and they do all they can to catch the foul ball. Like it or not, sitting that close means you have to pay attention to when your team has an opportunity to make the play. If you don’t care and want the ball anyway, that’s your prerogative, but you do lose the right to boo when a player doesn’t make the play.
As an epilogue, for those who have a problem with Votto, he did apologize to the fan and give him a signed ball:
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) August 3, 2016